Despite Our Faults, We Carry On

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”

(Mt 28: 16-17)

For a good while now I’ve been intrigued by that line which says that when the disciples saw Jesus “they worshiped, but they doubted.” What could that possibly mean? How could the disciples simultaneously worship and doubt? Whom did they worship, and why did they doubt? If they worshiped Jesus, doesn’t that indicate that they knew he was God? But how could they doubt after having spent all that time with him, after having witnessed his resurrection, and his many post-resurrection appearances? Interesting, isn’t it?

What we do know is that despite their doubts, the disciples went on to do what Jesus told them to do – they set out to preach, teach, baptize and make disciples of all the nations. Despite their personal flaws, they would live and die for Jesus.

There’s a clear lesson in all of this for us, namely, that even with our human weaknesses, faults and sins, we’ve got work to do; we can’t let imperfection hold us back.

As disciples longing for holiness we can never let our sins, even our repeated sins, defeat us. Rather, we do our best, and if we fall we confess our sins, stand up and start walking again along the path of faith.

Lord knows that priests and bishops have many sins, faults and failures, but they need to carry on their ordained mission of teaching, serving and sanctifying God’s people. As I’ve said before, if we waited for perfect preachers, all of our pulpits would be empty. “Even the law-breaking judge must uphold the law,” the saying goes.

Parents, too, learn the lesson pretty quickly. Parents certainly aren’t perfect and they make lots of mistakes in raising their kids, but do they stop parenting? Of course not. Parents work hard and do their best, trusting that their kids will learn from the total human experience, not from any pretense of perfection.

It seems to me that acknowledging our sins, overcoming our doubts, and learning from our experience – but also reaffirming our commitment to the task at hand – are the unavoidable elements and necessary ingredients of a successful life.

Something to think about: Do you sometimes get discouraged by your failures? How do you respond to those moments?